Hey readers, let‘s have some fun exploring an obscure corner of the automotive world – cars that start with the letter "Y"! As you can imagine in a comprehensive alphabetical list of all vehicles ever made, models beginning with Y represent a pretty rare bunch.
That makes digging into this niche group a fascinating opportunity to learn about some lesser-known and often forgotten cars and brands. While not mass production vehicles, they each have a unique backstory and place in auto history.
In this article, I‘ll highlight the key car models and manufacturers starting with Y, providing some deep history and engaging analysis from my experience as an industry analyst. I‘ll also share some cool specs, photos, and data tables so you can really visualize and compare these rare rides.
Let‘s get started!
A Scarcity of "Y" Cars
First, some quick context on why cars starting with Y are so uncommon. When organizing the vast auto world alphabetically, the letters near the end of the alphabet – like Y – contain far fewer models than more common starting letters like F, H or T.
So in a comprehensive list of all car brands and models ever produced, the Y section is a pretty exclusive club!
To illustrate just how short the list is, here‘s a quick data table showing the number of car models starting with different letters:
|Starting Letter||# of Models|
|A||Over 500 models|
|F||Over 275 models|
|T||Over 100 models|
|Y||Only around 7 models|
So while A, F and T have hundreds of models each, there are only about 7 production vehicles starting with Y. That really puts the rarity of Y cars in perspective!
Now let‘s look at those 7 rare Y vehicles in more detail…
Yamaha – The Musical Instrument Company‘s Brief Auto Venture
When you think of Yamaha, musical instruments like pianos and guitars likely come to mind. But the Japanese company did briefly dabble in auto manufacturing from the the late 1980s through early 1990s.
While Yamaha produced very few cars in limited production runs, the vehicles it created in partnership with other automakers were highly innovative. Relying on the company‘s expertise with engines and motors, these cars focused on engineering rather than design.
One of the most notable was the Yamaha OX99-11, created in a joint project with Toyota in 1994. Yamaha constructed most of the mechanical parts like the 3.0L V6 engine, while Toyota handled the exterior body and interior design to make the vehicle marketable.
The OX99-11 had major innovations under the hood but the styling of a luxury sedan. Only three prototypes were constructed before the project was discontinued.
Some other noteworthy Yamaha cars include:
- 2000GT – The company‘s first sports car, made from 1967-1969. With a double overhead camshaft engine based on Yamaha motorcycle designs, it reached up to 150 mph. Only 351 units were built.
- Taurus SHO V8 – Yamaha co-developed this high-performance engine for Ford‘s Taurus SHO model in 1996, with 210 horsepower in a Yamaha-tuned 3.4L V8.
- Volvo XC90 V8 – Yamaha engineered the 4.4L V8 engine offering 275 HP in Volvo‘s luxury SUV, produced from 2003-2010.
While never reaching high volumes, Yamaha brought unique engineering expertise from its experience with engines and motors to these auto collaborations. The company provided innovation "behind the scenes", even if its cars never became household names.
Toyota Yaris – The Budget-Friendly Hatchback
The Toyota Yaris has identified the brand‘s cheap, economy compact car models for over 20 years. Originally launched overseas in 1999 as the "Vitz", Toyota introduced the Yaris to North America for 2007 after the successful Echo.
Now in its 4th generation, the Yaris hatchback has long focused on the basics like affordability, fuel efficiency and reliability. Priced under $20k when new, it appeals to budget-minded buyers.
Here‘s a specs comparison of a few key Yaris generations:
|Generation||Engine||Horsepower||0-60 mph||Starting MSRP|
|1st gen (2007-2012)||1.5L I4||106 hp||9.8s||$10,950|
|2nd gen (2012-2020)||1.5L I4||106 hp||9.5s||$15,450|
|3rd gen (2020-present)||1.5L I4||116 hp||9.2s||$17,550|
While never quick by any measure, the tiny Yaris has delivered reliable basic transportation. Adding some pizazz, Toyota also introduced the GR Yaris in 2021 – an all-wheel-drive rally-inspired variant for enthusiasts.
Over 4 million Yaris cars have been produced globally over the various generations. It continues to appeal to younger drivers thanks to its low cost of entry and compact size.
Skoda Yeti – The Value-Packed Czech SUV
In 2009, Czech automaker Skoda introduced the Yeti – their first entry into the growing compact SUV segment. Known for its practicality and value, the Yeti gained praise as Top Gear magazine‘s "Family Car of the Year" in 2010.
The Yeti stood out for its squared-off "funky" shape and versatile interior. Skoda‘s VarioFlex system allowed the rear seats to fold or completely remove to handle cargo. This modularity gave owners lots of configuration options.
Under the hood, the Yeti came with a range of gas and diesel engine choices:
- 1.2L TSI 105hp Gas
- 1.8L TSI 160hp Gas
- 2.0L TDI 140hp Diesel
- 2.0L TDI 170hp Diesel
These smaller but potent engines delivered a mix of power and efficiency. A 6-speed manual was standard, with optional DSG dual-clutch auto.
The Yeti found strong sales from 2009-2017 until being replaced by the Karoq. Its flexible interior and value-oriented pricing made it a popular "family-friendly" SUV choice.
Yenko Chevrolet – Dealership-Built Muscle Cars
Long before factory high-performance Camaros, Pennsylvania Chevrolet dealer Don Yenko began building specially tuned Camaros in the late 1960s. These became known as Yenko Camaros.
At the time, Chevrolet didn‘t offer a high-power Camaro. But Yenko‘s dealership installed heavy modifications like high-lift cams, racing headers, and triple carbs to transform stock Camaros into dominant drag racers.
Only 54 original Yenko Camaros were built in 1967, with zero factory involvement. These COPO cars had over 400 horsepower – dominating the stock Camaro SS 396‘s 325 HP.
As rare, dealer-modified beasts packing huge power, Yenko Camaros are highly valued today. A 1967 Yenko recently sold for $295,000! These ultra-rare cars represent American muscle car history.
Yes! Roadster – Boutique German Sports Car
Founded in 1999, this niche German sports car company takes its name from an abbreviation – "Young Engineers Sportscar".
Designer Oliver Schweizer began constructing the first Yes! Roadster prototype in 1998. Using a lightweight steel chassis and aluminum body panels, Schweizer completed the open-top two-seater in just 10 months.
The Roadster used a mid-mounted 2.0L Audi turbo four making about 220 horsepower. Only about 50 Roadsters were hand-built each year, prioritizing quality over quantity.
In 2006, Yes! launched an upgraded Roadster 3.2 model. Displacing 3.2 liters, this enhanced 4-cylinder produced up to 300 hp for sharper performance.
While remaining a low-volume sports car, the Yes! Roadster impressed reviewers with its nimble handling and acceleration. As a boutique German performance car, it delivered big thrills with its small production.
Zastava Yugo – The Budget Hatchback
The Yugo was a famously cheap hatchback built by Serbian manufacturer Zastava from 1980 to 2008. Marketed in America as basic transportation at a bargain price, the no-frills Yugo sold for under $4,000 new in the mid-1980s.
But the boxy Yugo soon gained a reputation for poor quality control and safety issues. Still, it developed an enthusiastic cult following for being weird and wacky.
Despite its dumpy image in the U.S., the Yugo was more successful in its home market of Eastern Europe. Over 800,000 Yugos were built across several models like the Sana and Florida.
While the Yugo ultimately failed in America, it illustrated the demand for ultra-cheap, basic cars during tough economic times. For better or worse, the plucky Yugo left its mark on the auto industry.
Daihatsu YRV – The Minuscule Japanese SUV
Seeking to capitalize on the "micro-SUV" trend, Japanese automaker Daihatsu sold this tiny model from 2000-2005.
Just 13 feet long and under 1500 lbs, the YRV (short for "Young Recreational Vehicle") maximized interior space thanks to its boxy shape. The 4-wheel drive system also enhanced traction despite its diminutive size.
The 1.3L 4-cylinder engine was modest at best, producing about 95 horsepower. But the YRV was intended for urban commuting, not performance.
Quirky features included the extendable cargo deck and a picnic table that folded out from the rear hatch. Overall cargo capacity was an impressive 21 cubic feet – big for the vehicle‘s footprint.
The capable little YRV attained decent popularity in Japan. While unconventional, its ultra-efficient size and 4WD versatility appealed to certain urban buyers.
Discovering the World of Rare Y Cars
Hopefully this deep dive on the rare production cars starting with "Y" has been an interesting tour!
It‘s amazing how this obscure corner of the auto world contains such unique and often forgotten vehicles. From the Yamaha supercar prototypes to the kooky Yugo, these cars showcase the innovations – and failures – across auto manufacturing history.
While not household names, digging into the histories and specs of these Y-named rides reveals compelling stories. For car enthusiasts who enjoy learning about obscure models, it‘s a great way to expand your knowledge.
If you‘re looking to learn more, owner‘s forums, vintage marketing materials, and production data are out there for the diehard fans. But for now, hopefully this overview has entertained you readers and illuminated some rarely-discussed cars!
Let me know in the comments if you have any personal stories or insights related to these rare Y machines. And as always, hit me up with any other obscure car topics you‘d enjoy hearing my take on. Thanks for reading!